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Chinese Slang Series-Lesson 9: 撞衫 (zhuàng shān)

August 27, 2011

Shirt-Hitting: 撞衫 (Zhuàng shān)

Have you ever slid into the room, looking like a million bucks, when all of the sudden you see that the person across the room is wearing the exact same outfit? This kind of lamentable scenario is cross-cultural, and the outrage is communicated in the universal language of facial expression (mouth agape, eyes burning, and all the other usual signs of reacting to audacity). If this doppelganger wasn’t your nemesis before, rest assured that he or she will be at any and all shared social situations from this point on. In Chinese, there is even a special slang term dedicated to describing this unfortunate phenomenon: 撞衫 (zhuàng shān).

Literally, 撞 (zhuàng) means to bump, hit, or knock. For example, 我的脚撞到了床 (wǒ de jiǎo zhuàng dào le chuáng) (I hit my foot on the bed). 衫(shān) simply means “shirt.” 撞衫refers to a situation where two or more people are wearing the same shirt or outfit. The idea of hitting communicates some degree of conflict, which is almost sure to follow when you thought you would stand out at a party, only to find that some other person is wearing the exact same thing. Note that this sense of conflict increases when he or she is actually pulling off the outfit better than you.

Though 撞衫is the most popular term, other applications are possible as well. Another common slang term for a similar situation is 撞包(zhuāng bāo), when two people are carrying the same purse.

For example:

A: 你和她撞包了!

Nǐ hé tā zhuàng bāole!

(You two have the same purse! )

B: 不是,她的是山寨的!

Bùshì, tā de shì shānzài de!

(No, hers is a knock-off!)

Also, check out our new youtube video dealing with 撞衫: